Eric Dier to Bayern Munich: How the hell did that happen?

 

 

Dier’s nine-and-a-half year career at Tottenham Hotspur is hanging by a loose loan thread – Bayern have the option to sign him permanently and there’s almost certainly no way back for him at Spurs – but there was a time where he was more of an understandably highly-coveted asset.

 

So how did Dier go from a Swiss Army Knife defensive player who was adored by England and Tottenham fans to a surprise pickup by Bayern?

 

A sudden move to Tottenham

Eric Dier, Adrian

Dier quickly endeared himself to Tottenham fans / Julian Finney/GettyImages

Dier’s 2014 move from Sporting CP to Tottenham came without much fanfare and was a public saga open and closed quite quickly. Within days of news emerging of a potential deal, the then-20-year-old was a Spurs player, becoming the third of Mauricio Pochettino’s six summer signings during his first pre-season.

 

Pochettino had been desperate to find a centre-back to partner Jan Vertonghen, and Villarreal’s Mateo Musacchio was his preferred target. Tottenham eventually settled on an uneven compromise of the slow and languid Federico Fazio, which allowed the spritely Dier – signed to provide cover and depth – to stake a claim.

 

He was first drafted in as an emergency right-back for Spurs’ first game of the 2014/15 season after Kyle Naughton picked up an early red card, eventually scoring the winner in stoppage time on the end of an assist from future Bayern teammate Harry Kane. Dier impressed in this new role owing to his physicality and wicked cross, playing there for 21 of his 35 games that season.

 

An accidental position change

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Dier and Wanyama would become teammates / BEN STANSALL/GettyImages

Dier’s spell at right-back effectively came to an end when Tottenham poached Kieran Trippier from relegated Burnley in June 2015, turning him into Kyle Walker’s reliable understudy.

 

Though Dier would almost exclusively play as a defensive midfielder for the 2015/16 season, this was not Pochettino’s plan. The Argentine was desperate to sign Victor Wanyama from former club Southampton, but 90min understands the Saints were still bitter from his exit in 2014 and refused to do business. Dier was shifted into the centre of the pitch as a makeshift compromise with Pochettino looking to beef up his midfield.

 

Eventually, Southampton would soften their stance and sell Wanyama to Spurs a year later for £11m, with the Kenyan forming a formidable partnership in midfield alongside Mousa Dembele. Dier was then returned to centre-back as part of a 3-4-3 system, though would flitter between the two positions following the summer 2017 arrival of Davinson Sanchez from Ajax.

 

Man Utd’s advances

Eric Dier, Wayne Rooney

Dier was wanted by Man Utd / Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

That same summer, Dier was the subject of a £40m approach from Manchester United. Tottenham, who had already long accepted Kyle Walker’s £50m departure to Manchester City, were reluctant to let another key player – one proficient in several positions and entering their peak years – leave for a Premier League rival.

 

Dier was keen to speak to United, who were also interested in signing left-back Danny Rose for a similar fee, but Spurs’ final say was he would be staying in north London. Jose Mourinho instead turned to his former Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic, but the Portuguese coach would work with his top target that summer later down the line.

 

England’s hero

Eric Dier, David Ospina

An iconic moment in England history / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

At international level, Dier was announcing himself as a core part of the England setup. He scored a cracking free-kick against Russia during an otherwise disastrous Euro 2016 campaign and went on to become a core part of Gareth Southgate’s team.

 

His finest moment in a Three Lions shirt came during their run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, scoring the winning penalty in their last-16 win over Colombia on penalties. The nation rejoiced at finally winning a shootout and Dier was the hero.

 

Injuries and illness

Eric Dier

Dier’s 2018/19 season was far from smooth / James Williamson – AMA/GettyImages

By 2018, Dier was at his apex. He had been courted by the Premier League’s biggest club, was a core player for a contending team and a hero for his country.

 

But his rise was halted by a couple of muscle injuries and a nasty bout of appendicitis upon his return from the World Cup. He spoke of how his immune system was failing to react well to the medicine prescribed to him. It wouldn’t really be until the 2019/20 season that Dier was back to full fitness, but even then he looked a yard slower and a tad weaker.

 

Back to centre-back

Jose Mourinho, Eric Dier

Dier and Mourinho finally worked together / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

Shortly after Mourinho replaced Pochettino in the Spurs dugout, Dier requested to play centre-back again rather than in midfield. His new head coach obliged.

 

Historically, Dier had only performed well in the heart of defence when Tottenham played a back-three formation and alongside veterans in Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld when they were at their best, but Mourinho was intent on using a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. For a multitude of reasons – be it Dier’s diminished physicality, his rustiness in a back-four, Mourinho’s tactical ineptitude or the declines of Spurs’ other defenders – this experiment didn’t really work.

 

Stock rises, stock falls

Antonio Conte, Eric Dier

Conte lived and died by Dier / Gualter Fatia/GettyImages

Dier was one of the main beneficiaries at Tottenham once they appointed Antonio Conte as head coach in November 2021, being able to operate perfectly as the middle centre-back in the Italian’s 3-4-3 system.

 

This propelled Dier back into the England squad, while Spurs’ summer 2022 push for another centre-back was focused on displacing Ben Davies from the starting lineup instead of him.

 

However, having ended the 2021/22 season strongly, Tottenham failed to kick on in Conte’s second season, and a groin injury to Dier – one that would eventually see him undergo surgery towards the end of the campaign – saw him regress again.

 

Dier also irked fans when, on the eve of Spurs’ crunch Champions League clash with his former club Sporting, he wanted to play abroad again.

 

With his contract up in 2024, it became increasingly clear Dier’s long-term future was not in north London.

 

Bayern make their interest known

Thomas Tuchel

Tuchel eventually got his man / Christian Kaspar-Bartke/GettyImages

Ange Postecoglou wanted to take time to assess his new Tottenham squad, but he did decide on the futures of a few players rather quickly.

 

He was open to the sales of Davinson Sanchez, who would be shifted on to Galatasaray in September, and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, while the soon to be out-of-contract Dier was also seen as someone unlikely to fit in with the Greek-Australian’s philosophy.

 

Spurs failed to drum up enough interest in Dier over the summer, though Bayern did briefly look in their search for a low-cost versatile defender. Chelsea’s Trevoh Chalobah, who previously worked under Thomas Tuchel, was also a target.

 

Dier ended up staying for the first half of the 2023/24 season but did not make an appearance until November, coming off the bench during nine-man Tottenham’s 4-1 loss at home to Chelsea.

 

His first start of the campaign came a week later away at Wolves, during which his incapabilities in Postecoglou’s system came racing to the surface in a late 2-1 defeat. During Dier’s 198 minutes of Premier League football this season, Tottenham conceded eight goals.

 

Early in the January window, Bayern emerged as a potential landing spot for Dier again, but the German champions wanted to explore other targets first. They made a play for Radu Dragusin, who ironically spurned their advances to sign for Tottenham instead.

 

Admitting defeat and shelving plans to pursue more expensive options like Barcelona’s Ronald Araujo until the summer, Bayern made their first official offer to Spurs for Dier and he was soon on a plane to Munich to sign his contract.

 

What the future holds at Bayern

Eric Dier

Dier recently turned 30 / Neal Simpson/Allstar/GettyImages

It is expected that Dier will stay at Bayern beyond his initial six-month loan spell, while there is an acceptance he could be moved around once again from his favoured centre-back role.

 

Tuchel has repeatedly spoken of Dier’s versatility as a reason behind Bayern’s pursuit, providing a cost-effective solution to their need to also strengthen in defensive midfield. Throughout the autumn, Bayern planned to make a fresh bid to sign Joao Palhinha from Fulham after a deadline day move fell through at the last minute, but they decided to switch their priorities to two new defenders.

 

Dier arrives at the Allianz Arena as their fourth-choice centre-back, which is at least one spot up from his final position at Tottenham having been usurped in the pecking order by right-back Emerson Royal. With Kim Min-jae away at the Asian Cup with South Korea potentially until the middle of February and Matthijs de Ligt recently sustaining a knee injury, Dier could be afforded minutes alongside Dayot Upamecano upon Bayern’s busy return from their winter break – they face Werder Bremen, Union Berlin, Augsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach between January 21 and February 3.

 

Whether Dier has the pace anymore to play in a Bundesliga famed for high lines and runners darting in behind is questionable. It may be that he finds a home back in midfield alongside Joshua Kimmich or Leon Goretzka as a like-for-like alternative to Palhinha.

 

Dier also has ambitions of winning back his England spot again and playing at Euro 2024, but a lack of regular game time will still limit his chances of impressing Gareth Southgate. At his peak, he was a favourite under the Three Lions boss, best evidenced by Southgate’s decision to call him up to the 2022 World Cup despite a dip in form in the months prior. It’s not out of the question he remains in Germany during the summer for the Euros.